Posts Tagged ‘GOP’

No, not all Muslims are terrorists.  And not all Muslims in the US are terrorists.  Clearly, very very few are.  But we don’t know which are which, and the non-terrorists have a bad habit of relativizing, sympathizing with, providing aid and comfort to, and otherwise showing more concern for themselves and their tribe than the broader community.

Equally important, the non-terrorist side of the ledger adds very little to our common and collective life.  We could do without any more such immigrants, and we should work to encourage self-deportation among those already here who are not firmly rooted.

Don’t expect to hear this from the Marco Rubio wing of the Republican Party any time soon.

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The Tea Party gets a bad rap.  It was mocked this weekend by the self-indulgent, incoherent Comedy Central rally in DC, supposedly to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.  While some have said their rally meant nothing, I believe it was the encore performance of Bush-era contempt for those who were reasonably and genuinely concerned for safety in the age of Islamic terrorism.  Oh, our “over-reaction” to 9/11, how funny that is.  How funny that their rally coincided with the interception of numerous al Qaeda bombs from Yemen. So realistic those liberals (including Republican liberals like Bush and McCain), allowing in tens of thousands of Muslim  Arabs after 9/11, while concerning themselves so punctiliously with the human rights of human scum down in GITMO.

That said, the concern with national security to the exclusion of other traditional conservative concerns after 9/11 has been a problem for the right.  It’s not been a problem that national security became a concern.   Bush clearly intended to defeat al Qaeda and took it seriously, even as he allowed his open borders liberalism to lead him into incoherence.  But for the left, it was all just a big overeaction.  We’re not really at war in their eyes. The enemy is just misunderstood or an echo of our own deep evil as a country.

The bigger problem for conservatives was that our post-9/11 prioritization of national security excluded the historical concern of conservatives for fiscal conservatism, a serious rethinking of the entitlement state, and the traditional concern for excessive debts.  And that national security policy was made on explicitly liberal grounds of expanding democracy and maintaining high rates of immigration.  The promise of the Tea Party movement (and its associated candidates) is that serious rollback of the entitlement state is now being discussed after a decade of Republican-led prolifgacy.  And its criticism extends to weak-kneed Republicans like Charlie Crist and Lisa Murkowski.

Janet Daly observes the real import of the Tea Party movement:

It was widely known in Europe that the American Left hated George Bush (and even more, Dick Cheney) because of his military adventurism. What was less understood was that the Right disliked him almost as much for selling the pass over government spending, bailing out the banks, and failing to keep faith with the fundamental Republican principle of containing the power of central government.

So the Republicans are, if anything, as much in revolt against the establishment within their own party as they are against the Democrats. And this is what the Tea Parties (which should always be referred to in the plural, because they are not a monolithic movement) are all about: they are not just a reaction against a Left-liberal president but a repudiation of the official Opposition as well.

Nor are they simply the embodiment of reactionary social conservatism, which has been the last redoubt of the traditional Republican Right. There were plenty of people in New York who wanted to believe that Tea Partiers were just a new incarnation of the gun-totin’, gay-bashing right-to-lifers whom they found it so easy to dismiss as risible throwbacks. This is a huge political miscalculation, which quite misses the point of what makes the Congressional midterm elections this week such an interesting and historic political event. This is so much more than the predictable to-ing and fro-ing of party control midway through a presidential term. What the grassroots rebellion is really about is an attempt to pull the Republican party back to its basic philosophy of low-tax, low-spend, small government: the great Jeffersonian principle that the best government is that which governs least.

Of course, there is much radicalism among Tea Partiers, including a general concern for open borders and a sense of “shoving off” the guilt-trip they have endured from minority hustler politicians demanding more and more largesse and special treatment.  The Tea Party should not restrict itself to fiscal conservatism or mere partisanship. It should not confuse itself, a la Glenn Beck, that a nonpartisan restoration of honor will do the trick.  If the Tea Party leaders and their members would connect the dots of the open borders Third World invasion of America, the racial dynamics of affirmative action, the impossibility of “exporting democracy,” and the unsustainable American welfare state–as many have, individually–then real sustainable reform of our country and its health could occur.

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Most mainstream conservatives distinguish the good 1960s, in particular the civil rights movement, from the evil excesses of the hippies and the anti Vietnam War movement.  Shelby Steele does a good job of explaining the genesis of the Left’s contempt for mainstream America and Western Civilization as rooted in a narrative of the civil rights movement that identifies all the previous history of America as tained and evil and only capable of being admired insofar as it seeks redemption.  He writes:

Yet there is now the feeling that without an appeal to minorities, conservatism is at risk of marginalization. The recent election revealed a Republican Party — largely white, male and Southern — seemingly on its way to becoming a “regional” party. Still, an appeal targeted just at minorities — reeking as it surely would of identity politics — is anathema to most conservatives. Can’t it be assumed, they would argue, that support of classic principles — individual freedom and equality under the law — constitutes support of minorities? And, given the fact that blacks and Hispanics often poll more conservatively than whites on most social issues, shouldn’t there be an easy simpatico between these minorities and political conservatism?  ‘Compassionate conservatism’ was clever — as a marketing ploy.

But of course the reverse is true. There is an abiding alienation between the two — an alienation that I believe is the great new challenge for both modern conservatism and formerly oppressed minorities. Oddly, each now needs the other to evolve.

Yet why this alienation to begin with? Can it be overcome?

I think it began in a very specific cultural circumstance: the dramatic loss of moral authority that America suffered in the 1960s after openly acknowledging its long mistreatment of blacks and other minorities. Societies have moral accountability, and they cannot admit to persecuting a race of people for four centuries without losing considerable moral legitimacy. Such a confession — honorable as it may be — virtually calls out challenges to authority. And in the 1960s challenges emerged from everywhere — middle-class white kids rioted for “Free Speech” at Berkeley, black riots decimated inner cities across the country, and violent antiwar protests were ubiquitous. America suddenly needed a conspicuous display of moral authority in order to defend the legitimacy of its institutions against relentless challenge.

This was the circumstance that opened a new formula for power in American politics: redemption. If you could at least seem to redeem America of its past sins, you could win enough moral authority to claim real political power

I wrote something similar here in regard to the annoying, anti-American rhetoric of mainstream conservatives like Bush and Condoleeza Rice.

As far as connecting the dots, I think its important for conservatives to revisit the standard, liberal-leaning account of our recent past and defend the past and the authority of our civilization and institutions, all the way to the Crusades, in order to avoid the unravelling tendencies or mealy-mouthed cheerleading.  We need not defend every excess, but history, including evils in history, must be seen in their proper context and judged in light of the distinctly modern evils of our times.  I think more narrowly as an electoral strategy conservatives must be magnaminous but must dump their fantastic hope that alienated people in a milieu that encourages and sanctifies that alienation will all of a sudden become stalwart defenders of our civilization and join in a movement so devoted.  Grievance pays, as illustrated not least by the Obamas.

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One sad thing about the CPAC Conference is that while the various speakers’ criticism of Obama’s “soak the rich” policies are true and persuasive, conservative leaders are missing out on an important recent development that renders much of the old strategy focused on growth, low taxes, and a rousing defense of capitalism less relevant than ever.

Once upon a time, conservatives were middle class, upwardly mobile people that worked hard, saved, made a few bucks, had kids, moved out to the suburbs, voted Republican, and contrasted their own happy and auspicious lives with those of the shiftless, undeserving poor, the “parasites” of the Democratic Party.  Working class people too hopped on board, though sometimes uneasily,  because they were disgusted with the excesses of the 1960s, jealous over their guns and their churches, and resentful of the simmering racial cold war harming their prospects on factory floors.

Today, however, the first group in that coalition–the group that cares a lot more about money and taxes and economic parasites than it does about flag-burning or abortion–is in economic shambles.  Their 401Ks are cut in half.  Their homes are upside down and increasingly being foreclosed upon.  Their self-confidence which depended upon the sharp contrast of their own lives with those of the idle poor has been undermined by the prospect of years and years of toil simply to get even.  Further, their sense that the rules are basically fair and that businesses (and people like them affiliated with businesses) succeed because they deserve to has created a kind of upper-middle-class populist reaction to the various Wall Street bailouts:  if their own small businesses must fail, and if their own portfolios get whacked, why does a subset of the economy, a subset that is not particularly notable for building or inventing anything other than impenetrably complex financial instruments, getting tax money and bailouts while the ordinary upper middle class gets the tab.  This tale of two groups of rich people is given further salience by the contrast of their own relatively straightforward success through thrift, focus, effort, hard work, and sobriety with the gambling-style activity and loose living of Wall Street in recent years.  I’m reminded of the largely middle class reaction against aristocratic decadence in France circa 1789.  Recall that it was a bourgeois revolution, not primarily a proletarian one.

Bill Clinton quite intelligently saw that the future of the Democratic Party and its big government ideology required expanding entitlements to the middle class, so that future elections became referenda on health care, scholarship funds, and the like.  Even so, his centerpiece health care proposal failed.  The middle class constituency I describe above mostly had health care because they were employed, and Republicans took over in 2000 after eight fat years of moderate rule.  What Clinton could not do by force of rhetoric, the economic crisis may allow.  Suddenly the old rules have left the middle class deeply in debt, immobile, and flirting with despair over the massive and seemingly unfair degradation of their wealth.  Further, the big giveaways to Wall Street, banks, and the most irresponsible homeowners have created among many a cynical “get while the getting’s good” view of things. After all, why be a sucker?  And, more important, why shouldn’t the rules be changed to help the good people just like them?

Rick Santelli’s impassioned Chicago Tea Party rant was surely enjoyable, but it would probably fall on deaf ears in places like Ft. Myers and Phoenix where people that did play by the rules and still see themselves as sensible and responsible are deeply underwater.  Suddenly, they’re poor too and more inclined than ever to take the handouts that they formerly thought would only slow them and their kind down.  It’s one thing to be against big government when you are a net loser under such a regime; it’s quite another to ask people to be against big government on principle.  For a long time, enough Americans saw the limited government policies of the founders echoed in the pro-capitalism direction of the Republican Party as a winning formula in accord with justice.  When that formula has left so many high and dry, the inexorable sprint towards big government solutions is harder to resist than ever, as too is a serious reevaluation of the values on which it was all based.

To accomplish anything of value, conservatism must change its rhetoric, focusing more on the cultural issues that still divide us from the Democrats and the likelihood that this productive class (even with a housing bail out) will become the permanent water-carrier for the big government future, exchanging, in effect, its future and that of its children for a few trinkets and Fool’s Gold.

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